This morning, I woke up and began to pray about everything going on in our lives right now. Nothing is easy about this season of life, but a lot of it is so good. When I checked my email, I received an update from a missionary family in Indonesia that I like to keep up with. I wanted to share it with you. It really makes every single struggle I have seem so minimal.
(I'm going to include their contact information in case God leads you to contact them or support them financially.)
Indo Window —The Pearl of Great Price
Stephanie and I are getting ready to go lead our English club on a Monday afternoon when Andi calls and asks if he can drop by. He’s one of our national partners and wants to give me the latest on what is happening on “Bridge Island” and to process some decisions we need to make as a team as to how to respond to some persecution that has broken out there.
As I wrote in our last update, this unreached and Gospel-resistant island has recently experienced a breakthrough. At our count 25 families in the last few months have become followers of Jesus, totaling over 200 people with 94 of them baptized so far and growing. There have been miracles and healings and it’s something totally unprecedented that I know of among this particular people group.
Recently a fanatical sect of Shia Islam (most Muslims in Indonesia are Sunni) burned down a Muslim boarding house in one of the villages there that they thought was deviant to true Islam. While on their rampage, this mob heard some rumors of a group of followers of Jesus living there. In this village were indeed seven families totaling 42 people in this growing movement, all believers for just a few weeks. These families were tipped off to the approaching mob and fled, just having with them the clothes on their backs. The mob arrived and broke into their homes, found New Testaments, and in a rage burned down each of their seven houses.
One of the new believers named Mr. J, against the urging of his friends, went back to his house to defend it. The mob arrived to burn down his house and he fought back by slashing one of the assailants with a sword and injuring him. The police later arrested Mr. J and are holding him in prison right now, they say for his own safety even though he had a legal right to defend his home. He has heard that as soon as he gets out there are people in this sect waiting to get revenge on him.
The seven families, many of them fisherman who have their own small boats, fled to a different island about a half hour away that is known as a hiding spot for people fleeing the law, in debt or on the run from someone out to get them (revenge is a very common cultural trait of these Bridge people). Over the next few days they set up makeshift tents out of tarps and were helped out by other followers in the movement. Since most of the men work as fisherman, they are able to catch fish for their families to eat every day, selling some to be able to buy rice which is the main staple in their diet.
As you read this these 42 people are still living on this rugged island which has no electricity or any infrastructure of any kind. Andi tells me one of their biggest complications is there is no electricity so they can’t keep their cell phones charged and have to severely limit use, a challenge when they need to communicate with one another. They turn their phones on just to text each other and then turn them right off again. Andi and I kick around an idea to buy and bring them a generator when he goes to visit them this week. Poro, whom I also wrote about in our last update, is with them now providing spiritual leadership for them in their ordeal. Andi will join Poro there and see firsthand what is going on and how to help.
Andi also tells me that this experience has not intimidated these new believers but they have been sharing the Gospel with other inhabitants of this “city of refuge” island. All of them want to go back to their homes, their land, their way of life. But in the meantime they are being bold fishers of men.
I remember when Andi and our other national partner led a CPM (Church Planting Movement) training for four leaders of these Bridge believers. They warned them that there could be a steep price for following Jesus, and they answered that they understood the cost and were willing to die for Jesus. We were touched by their sincere response and it reminded me of the pearl merchant Jesus talked about in Matthew 13:45-46: “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it.” That training was just a couple of weeks ago. None of us imagined that the persecution would start so soon. But they still say the kingdom of heaven has been worth the high cost.
I’m so riveted by Andi’s latest report and humbled to know of these saints who have paid a dear price of following Jesus even in their first few weeks of becoming believers. My life is so comfortable—even as Andi tells me these stories we are sitting on my front porch enjoying a nice breeze together. Soon Stephanie and I will be greeted by friendly children eager to learn English. I’ll go to bed later tonight in my cozy home while these fellow believers will be sleeping under trees and tarps.
Though they have paid so much and I have paid so little for the Pearl of Great Price, I can join them in prayer. You can too and we ask for your prayers for them. Pray for the other 20 families to be hidden and protected from this mob. Pray for justice. Pray for Mr. J now in prison. Pray that the seven families could return to their homes without fear. Pray for the four main leaders of their movement and for Andi and Poro visiting them this week. Pray that all of them will continue to be a light in a very dark place. Pray for our small team to know the wisest way to respond.
Thanks so much,
P.S. My latest blog post, marveling at the rich soil of Java and how our hearts can be the same: http://www.faithactivators.
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